International Investor interviews Cristina Comalrena de Sobregrau, the telecom
engineer leading GAP’s e-commerce operations in Spain and Portugal.
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND
AND HOW HAS THIS CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR
I am a Telecommunications Engineer with over 15 years of experience in e-commerce and start-ups. My entrepreneurial and curious mindset combined with my passion for e-commerce, business development, and business digitization has led me to launch numerous digital businesses across various sectors including retail, short-term real estate, and SaaS technology. Two and a half years ago, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to spearhead the establishment and growth of the online business for GAP, the well-known American retail brand, in Spain and Portugal.
Working closely with the brand and the local franchisee, I leveraged my expertise in both technology and business to successfully launch the website. I am proud to say that I am still actively involved in leading and expanding the online
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
When I was growing up, my parents encouraged my siblings and me to develop a problem-solving mindset. I was fascinated by watching my older siblings create electrical circuits, fix appliances or set phone cables around the house.
As I grew older, I wanted to follow in their footsteps and honed my problem-solving skills. When it came time to choosing my degree, I was interested in both technology and business. However, I felt that technology would give me the tools I needed to solve complex situations, so I decided to study engineering first, and pursue a business education later.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO WORK IN TECH?
Anyone working in tech should develop a combination of technical and soft skills. Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to adapt to changing technology and work environments, are essential for success.
Effective communication and collaboration skills are also important, as usually, you can find yourself working in cross-functional teams and need to be able to clearly articulate technical concepts to a non-technical audience. In addition, strong interpersonal skills, such as empathy and active listening, help build positive relationships with colleagues and clients. I would say that curiosity for emerging technologies and a willingness to continue learning will be key to thrive in a constantly evolving industry.
DO YOU THINK ENOUGH IS DONE TO HELP WOMEN GET INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY? IF NOT, WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE DONE?
The technology industry still struggles with gender bias and a lack of diversity, however, there are steps that can be taken to enhance it. One way to address this is through education programs that actively encourage girls to feel comfortable and confident around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Another way to address this is for companies to make diversity and inclusiveness a priority in their hiring practices, as well as in their training and mentorship programs. These efforts can help eliminate unconscious biases and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture within the technology industry.
DO YOU THINK WOMEN HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES AS MEN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
Unfortunately, gender bias and a lack of diversity persist not only in the tech industry but in many industries worldwide. The unequal representation of women can be traced back to societal and educational conditioning that begins in childhood. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s book “Women Don’t Ask” explores how societal institutions and practices discourage women from asking for opportunities and resources they deserve, perpetuating unfair and economically unsound inequalities. To address these disparities, it is crucial to challenge and break down harmful gender stereotypes, make the causes of inequalities visible, and provide equal educational and career opportunities for Women.
WHAT STEREOTYPES DO YOU THINK WOMEN HAVE TO OVERCOME IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the need to address stereotypes, nonetheless, we can still be perceived as too emotional or not taking our work seriously enough. Another stereotype is that women in tech don’t have good managerial qualities, because leadership roles are traditionally viewed as masculine. In my opinion, the most prevailing one is that women are often not seen as fitting the typical “geek” associated with tech, therefore there is the belief that women lack the technical skills required to work in tech.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN CAN BRING TO THE TECH INDUSTRY?
Women bring unique skills and perspectives to the tech industry. Women have the ability to look at a specific situation from multiple angles, together with problem-solving, technical skills, and communication abilities allow them to bring fresh ideas that challenge existing solutions and drive innovation. Women are known for having strong organizational and managerial qualities and can manage teams with a collaborative approach. Companies with gender diversity tend to perform better, which makes hiring women beneficial for overall business success.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET INTO TECH?
My advice to women who are interested in getting into the tech industry is to stay focused, work hard, and remain confident. Embrace your passion for tech and utilize it to explore various fields of study within the discipline. To sharpen your skills, take advantage of online courses. Network with professionals in the industry and look for a mentor, someone that can provide guidance and expertise.
WHO IS YOUR FEMALE TECH HERO AND WHY?
I admire many women in tech, but one who stands out is Anna Navarro Schlegel. She was considered the Most Influential Women in Technology by the US magazine Analytics Insight in 2020 and featured this year as the Most Admired Woman Leader in Business by the international business magazine CIO LookIn. It’s impressive to note that she is from Barcelona, holds a degree in philosophy, and has still managed to excel in tech companies such as Xerox, VeriSign, VMware, NetApp, and Procore. She serves as a remarkable role model for women in a field where only 2% of women hold management positions and has proven that education and background do not limit one’s ability to succeed in the tech industry.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT, OR WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EXCITING PROJECT TO DATE?
I have a strong passion for taking on challenging projects that allow me to tap into my creativity, expand my skill set, and collaborate with my colleagues. I believe that working in a team environment is crucial for success and I always strive to create an atmosphere where everyone feels supported and valued. I find immense satisfaction in contributing to a project that brings out the best in my team and I relish the opportunities to learn and grow alongside my peers. To me, the most fulfilling projects are those that offer new and exciting challenges, and I am always eager to tackle these challenges head-on.